The Upside Of Downside…

The 2012 New York Mets season has already seen its share of injuries, tough luck losses  and just outright poor, frustrating play. However, the positives in defeat, losses and watching players fail is you can determine what are your weaknesses as a team, and how can it be improved. So far, some hitting flaws have been exposed, some hitters have adapted better to new roles under the tutelage of Dave Hudgens while others have struggled to combine patience with a selective approach. Some bullpen pitchers have seen their stars fall, while others have capitalized on learning new pitches to help equalize the competition.

Ike Davis has come out of the gate, and been just about as bad as someone could have hoped. After yesterday’s game, Davis is hitting .170 with five home runs, 20 RBI and a 11/46 BB/K ratio. Ike has been getting killed on breaking balls, seeing less and less fastballs while swinging at more breaking balls on the outside corners and in the dirt. Defensively, Ike has been as stable but a few times it seems his struggles have come with him into the field.

The Verdict: The fans and possibly management itself overplayed how ready someone with just over 600 at-bats would adapt after a long lay-off. Ike has shown some signs of resurgence, but consistent ability to make quality contact has killed him. The BABIP will have to rise (.208) which is well below league-average.

Andres Torres went down on opening day with a flare-up of the calf injury that kept him out of the majority of the spring training games. While many Mets fans were prepared to see some combination of Hairston/Baxter/Bay patrolling center (yeah, looking back that was crazy), the Mets did something many fans wished they would, and called up Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Despite a major problem with striking out (53 on the season, tied for fifth with Cincinnati Reds CF Drew Stubbs), Kirk has managed to make his contact count, still hitting .288 with a .358 OBP and some solid, if not great center field defense. The performance merits playing time, but once Jason Bay returns, it will be interesting to see the utilization

The Verdict: Kirk was infact MLB ready, and the strikeouts are the only issue, but most expected him to have a high strikeout total. With better knowledge of how MLB umpires call games, Kirk will turn the strikeouts into walks and hits. While he may not be an All-Star, Captain Kirk is one of many reasons these Mets are six games over .500

Bobby Parnell, who has witnessed his stock and future role with the Mets waver every year came into the season expecting to be a situational righty,  especially with the additions of Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and Frank Francisco. What he has become is the most consistent right-handed option in the bullpen who has finally learned to harness his stuff, as evidenced by his 3/21 BB/K ratio over the course of the young season. His ERA of  2.75 is only bested by Tim Byrdak’s 2.57, but Byrdak has been a machine himself. The knuckle-curve he learned from Jason Isringhausen seems to have made a difference, as hitters are forced to guess in any strikeout count: Will he throw me a fastball anywhere from 92-101, or paint a corner with an 83 MPH curve?

The Verdict: Parnell pitches much like a hitter hits – in streaks and stints. Parnell hasn’t really had any poor outings yet, and four of the six earned runs he’s allowed have come in two different outings. Bobby just may have figured out how to pitch now, and increased his value in the Mets bullpen drastically.

This isn’t to say there aren’t other stories to be spoken about such as the emergence of Mike Baxter as the best pinch-hitting option off the bench, Manny Acosta rendering himself incapable of getting out MLB hitters, Johan Santana returning to his old form or David Wright borrowing MJOLNIR from Thor to become one of the best hitters in the NL. It just means, when all things were assumed bad – there was an upside to it. Finding out what we thought we know wasn’t true, and finding out what we didn’t know was a lie.